Chris Thair

chris thair

Less than 2 years ago Chris Thair and his business partner Richard Dickson launched a subscription service that satisfied 3 needs. The first was to inspire people and businesses to take small actions into lowering their carbon footprint with weekly tips, tools and education. The second was to repair the planet through reforestation and plant trees to rebalance carbon footprints. The third was to ensure people made a social impact and not just an environmental one by passing 10% of your monthly fee to a charity of your choice. Since launching thousands of subscribers and hundreds of businesses across nine countries have joined. Play It Green is a unique award winning service that empowers you to be part of the climate solution and boost your green credentials so your business continues to grow. It was a pleasure to speak to Chris about his journey. It’s clearly been a challenging one, but his drive and determination, which was honed as a professional sportsman and later a sports leader, has given him the resilience he needs to get off the ground.  


What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

The book that I’ve given out the most in the last few years is a book called Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. It’s a brief history of humankind and he talks about why mankind is the way it is, and the origins of humankind, religion and society. I’m an atheist, grew up a Protestant, lived with a Muslim and married a Jewish woman and now have children of Jewish faith so religion has always played an important role in my life. The trait that I love across all these people is their values, their religious beliefs whilst to be respected are not my concern. I often say to my children “Be proud of your religion, it helps build your social values and gives you a community and a sense of belonging but never forget that ultimately we are all the same. No matter your skin colour, gender or religion, we’re all people (or in relation to the book homosapiens) and it is your values and actions as a person that determine whether  you’re a good or bad person. I found the Sapiens book a brilliant read and it clearly appealed to my thought process on people and the kindness we must have for one another. 


What purchase of £100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? (Brand and model, where you found it?) 

For me, it’s about experiences with loved ones over material goods. So spending money on trips with my kids or New Years Eve tickets to have a great time with my wife and friends beats any material item. 

The best regular payment I make is the £8 I pay to play five-aside football with old men and keep fit . This brings me joy, friendship and certainly benefits my mental and physical health.

I’m into living sustainably and promoting the circular economy so buy used items where possible. At Christmas I bought two fantastic Ralph Lauren shirts, for £9, Asics trainers for £20, however it doesn’t always end well. I also purchased some used Barker of Earl Barton shoes and on the second time of using them, the sole fell off!


How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favourite failure” of yours?

My favourite failure is the business that we’re currently in, as we fail all the time. Nothing catastrophic, just a series of mini failures along the way. We launched a business called ‘Play It Green’, less than two years ago and on the surface it looks great, it is great. We have thousands of subscribers and a few hundred business members, a great website and platform, we’re big on LinkedIn and have lots of wonderful reviews but behind the scenes we fail all the time. I think with any failure, the key element is to learn from it and then very quickly move on. 

Our first failure around Play It Green was that we spent too long setting it up. 8 months with no revenue and a lot of personal and financial sacrifice does take its toll. I was getting some great advice at the time, to get an MVP out there as soon as possible and not wait. Sadly this was ignored maybe due to our age or ego we wanted it to be near perfect from day one. Looking back, what we launched with was far from perfect but it worked. Another failure during this time is we spent months coming up with a business model and an online platform that, when we went out to market to build, was totally unaffordable. So we had to adapt and come up with a different solution. In the end that came through some young developers in Berlin who loved our business model so much they built the website at 10% of the quoted cost.  

Richard and I, the two co-founders of Play It Green have some wonderful experiences but in our wisdom we decided to start an online subscription service, where everything goes through tech, with no tech experience between us at all. We did recognise this failing from day one and again addressed it, with investment coming through a company that had a lot of tech experience. 

We launched an API for e-commerce integration and our first customer was telling me they had 100 sales when the API was saying 60, so it didn’t correlate. Another mini failure that we fixed and the list goes on. 

In building and evolving a business, we fail all the time and failure should actually be embraced. Before a high jumper breaks a world record, they fail on thousands of occasions at lower heights. The only negative failure is when the same mistake keeps happening time and time again. This means you are not learning, evolving and then it is time to worry. To fail is never a bad thing and it’s a natural part of business that we all experience. The world is not perfect.  

Failing relates to risk. When coming up with the business model for Play It Green, we formulated a unique approach that no other business in the world was doing. We believed in it immensely however it could have failed as there was no other working model out there. Other businesses were doing single elements of our 3 step solution to climate change but nobody had combined all 3 into 1. Our subscription service helps lower the carbon footprint of people and businesses with weekly tips, discounts, education and tools. So reducing carbon footprints is step 1. Our USP is that whilst you are on this journey we ensure you make an ongoing environmental and social impact through planting trees and regifting 10% of the subscription to a good cause of the members choice. Step 2 is repairing the planet through reforestation and step 3 is regifting to society by passing funds to charity. All huge selling points, impactful and positive however in doing this there was risk. We’ve known this could fail as it hadn’t been done before however that didn’t stop us doing it. Failure should never be feared. 


If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it —metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why? It could be a few words or a paragraph. (If helpful, it can be someone else’s quote: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?)

“If Carlsberg did subscriptions…”

I genuinely believe we have this amazing subscription service and the value for money for £5 is just unreal. For £5 per month, we give members their own personalised platform, plant thirteen trees, give 50p to charity, send a tip every Friday on how they can lower their footprint, discounts to related products and lots of education content on sustainability. We also share business best practice and provide members access to lots of free marketing and net zero support for your business … all for £5.  


What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)

For me it’s time investments into my marriage and kids, the reason I talk about that is because of the support network you need to start a business. Your first support network is your business partner but outside of that, you need that support network within your personal life as well. Every single day I see my wife and children, I’ve invested lots of time in good experiences with them so I know there is lots of value in the bank with them. When I need support, they provide it in bucket loads and it means the world to me. That support network is really important  in order to have a good foundation and bedrock from which to grow from as a business. 


6.What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

I know I’m not alone in loving this absurd habit but I often get engrossed in a television series that nobody else in the house is into. I’ve realised that if you’re getting engrossed in something but you’re not sharing that with anybody, then really what is the point. It helps in terms of switching off but it is quite ludicrous to be entertaining yourself in the family environment, without your family or friends sharing in the experience. 


In the last five years, what new belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life? 

Your physical and mental health is paramount,  that and your support network is the most important thing in the world. Embracing family, my wife and kids, ensuring my mental health and physical health is good because if any of that falls down, everything else becomes irrelevant. 

The other thing I’ve learnt is that you soon forget conversations and the only thing that you remember about people is the feeling that they gave you. 

From very early on I’ve always tried to put myself in the other person’s shoes and tried to understand them. Putting some perspective on your problems is also never a bad thing to do. 

I’ve also learnt to recognise the qualities of others. We all have different strengths and everybody brings something to the table. Leadership may start with an individual but ultimately it is the strength of the leadership qualities in your fellow Directors and staff that help take the business to new heights. I have huge respect for my cofounder Richard Dickson and our business is much stronger due to everyone having leadership qualities. 


What advice would you give to a smart, driven student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?”

Follow your passion, get a job, deliver beyond your expectations, become a sponge and learn off people, When you mix all this up, things start to happen. If you’re in a job and excelling, when that management job does come up, then you can get that job. You’ve got to get the ball rolling and get going in life, then progress from there. It’s very rare that you jump twenty steps at once on the career or business ladder. We evolve and grow and it’s all gradual steps. 

I think advice is like ideas. There’s no bad advice or bad ideas, there are only bad decisions. Stage 1 is to get as many ideas and pieces of advice on the table as possible, willingly accept them all. The only bad thing that comes out of ideas is stage two, the decision on what you’re going to move forward with. If this fails, it is never the fault of the idea or piece of advice, it is the decision to act upon it. 

My final piece of advice to any young person is when things go wrong in life, the first action you should take is to look in the mirror. Ask yourself what you could have done differently and learn from it.


What one thing could you do that you aren’t doing now, that if you did on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your personal life?  What one thing in your business or professional life would bring similar results?

Using my calendar in a better fashion. Blocking out times to complete tasks and putting in reminders to follow up with people a few weeks later. All things I used to do and I need to start doing again. 


Have you ever engaged with self-help, mentoring or coaching? If so, how?

Yes. I have had some legal mentoring, with one on one sessions and the mentor was brilliant.

A previous boss of mine did management training with a group and his mantra was, “Surround yourself with better people than yourself”. Then our job was to lead them and get the very best out of those people. 

One of the best relationships I had was when I was Chief Executive of Wales Rugby League and the  Chairman would speak to me almost on a daily basis. I had a really good relationship with him, we became each others’ support mechanism and I suppose that was ‘‘coaching’ without it happening formally.

To subscribe to Play It Green for as little as £5 per month click here.


Topic: Tribe Tuesday